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State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, talks about the legacy of Dr. George Smith, who died Friday. Scott Broden/DNJ

SMYRNA — State Rep. Mike Sparks of Smyrna has been claiming incorrectly that his Republican opponent Tim Morrell voted as a Smyrna Town Council member to give himself a raise.

“We have never voted for a pay raise, and I have not received a pay raise,” Morrell said during a Monday phone interview while early voting is taking place for the Aug. 2 primary.

“I have personally heard Mike Sparks at early voting tell a voter that I have voted to give myself a 150 percent pay raise. It’s a sad and desperate attempt by a career politician to get re-elected,” he said. 

Sparks said he based his comments about the pay increase on what former Smyrna Town Councilwoman Lori North said after she announced her resignation during a May 31 meeting.

“If I’m not mistaken, she mentioned it would go up 150 percent,” Sparks told the DNJ. “I just stated what I’ve seen and heard.”

The GOP nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Chris Mayor and Richard C. Petty.  

Mayor Reed: Sparks incorrect 

North’s comments came after she announced that she was resigning to take a job out of state.

“One good thing about the budget is in it there’s a huge pay increase for the town council position,” North said and encouraged people to run. “It’s going from $400 to $1,000 per month.”

North also mentioned the mayor’s pay is going from $600 to $1,600 per month.

Council members at the June 12 meeting said North was incorrect about the pay raises, which were proposed as part of a study and discussed during a retreat but were never enacted. 

Smyrna Finance Director Rex Gaither confirmed Friday through email to The Daily News Journal that North was incorrect about the pay raises.

“The mayor and council did not get a raise,” Gaither said.

Although other council members and Gaither have corrected what North said, Sparks during a recent WGNS radio show said the Smyrna Town Council members gave themselves a pay raise. 

“They’ve gotten 150 percent pay raise,” Sparks said on the air. “Is that not a news story? The mayor, from my understanding, she’s gotten a 300 percent pay raise. Wouldn’t that be breaking news?”

Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed said any pay raise would require a lot more discussion. 

“I can assure the citizens if that were to ever take place it would be brought before the council in an open meeting for all of our citizens to be able to hear discussion by the council,” Reed said.

Morrell says comments widespread

The Smyrna charter stipulates that any approved raises for the mayor or council positions can only take place until after either any of the incumbents are re-elected or the next candidates elected to the positions win the seat, Reed said.

That means if any vote for a raise happened, Morrell, who won re-election in 2016, would have to wait two years to get more income as a re-elected official, the mayor said. 

Sparks has made the comment about the raises beyond the radio, Morrell said.

“I have received numerous phone calls from citizens in the 49th District that have stated they received either a phone call or a text from Mike Sparks stating that I had given myself a 150 percent pay raise,” Morrell said. 

Morrell said Sparks should not be basing comments or legislative positions on rumors and unsubstantiated facts.

“It’s reckless,” Morrell said. “It’s really funny that he cries fake news, and it seems he’s the center of fake news now.” 

More: Rep. Mike Sparks draws criticism over teacher pay remarks from Smyrna mayor, teachers

More: Lori North resigns from Smyrna Town Council, creates vacancy

More: State Rep. Mike Sparks faces GOP competition from Smyrna Town Councilman Tim Morrell

Reach Scott Broden through email at sbroden@dnj.com, phone at 615-278-5158 or on Twitter @ScottBroden.

 

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